The House That Ivy Built - Book 5

Excerpt 1

(from The House That Ivy Built #5, © 2002-2017)

Excerpt 1
Excerpt 2
Excerpt 3

[NOTE on this excerpt: This scene takes place at Ivy's house out in the boonies, where she and her eighteen-or-so roommates live. If you didn't already know, some of the inhabitants of Ivy's house are not human; they're from other dimensions. It makes a whole lot more sense if you know the background from reading my webcomic, but for purposes of this excerpt you can just smile and nod.

This is a piece of chapter 9; another part of chapter 9 is in the next excerpt. You can pick up an understanding of most of the drama surrounding Cecily and Roger, their baby, and their wedding from the context. Ah, and when you see Ivy refer to "teekay," that's short for her telekinetic powers. Who wants to have to say a five-syllable word all the time?]


Book 5, Chapter 9, Begin excerpt

       “Hah! Got ’im! Oh wait, no I didn’t.”

       “Get outta the way, I’ll get ’im! My turn!”

       Okay, I said to myself. I knew there was a reason I quit sleeping here. I sighed and turned over, listening to the sounds coming from the kitchen, trying to figure out what my silly roommates were doing.

       “Eww, noooo, Tab, don’t touch it, it’s dirty!”

       “Yaah! There’s two of them!” I heard a loud bump, then, “Owww.”

       “Let me get it!”

       “I’ll get one and you get the other.”

       What were they doing anyway? I rolled out of bed to find out, and in a moment I was floating in the kitchen doorway, observing four of my roommates.

       Cecily was at the table holding a piece of toast, but the other three were in various states of frenzied activity. Robin was wearing shoes in the house, an odd occurrence, apparently trying to step on a bug, while Bradleigh was trying to catch it under a plastic cup. Tab was chasing another one with her bare hands.

       “What are you people doing?” I asked, though it was pretty obvious.

       “What’s it look like?” Cecily asked. I deserved that.

       “I mean, what’s the point of so much noise? And why does it take four people to catch a bug?”

       “Two bugs,” Tab said, lunging at one of them again. She caught it in her hands but it wriggled out between her fingers and continued running.

       “And that’s three people,” Cecily said, “not four. I’m sitting on my ass, just making sure they don’t get my toast.”

       I noticed her toast was very light on one side and very dark on the other. She’d been using Zeke’s homemade toaster, which worked on batteries, but apparently not very well.

       “Why are you guys freaking out over a couple bugs?” I asked. We got our fair share of them, and I didn’t remember people making too big a deal before.

       “Roaches are different,” Robin said, wrinkling her nose. “We never had a roach problem. They’re the worst. If you see one, there’s ten you can’t see, and they carry diseases. Tab, don’t touch it, I said!”

       Tab looked up innocently. “But I like to chase him!”

       “Then do it with a cup.” Robin plucked the cup out of Bradleigh’s hand and gave it to Tab. She returned to her task with some urgency.

       I sighed and set myself on the floor.

       “If you catch it, toss it in the toilet immediately,” Robin said, going after the other one with her shoe again. It ran up the counter and hid behind Zeke’s toaster.

       “Why not just chuck the bug out the window? He didn’t do anything to you,” I said, giggling a little.

       “They’re filthy creatures,” Robin replied, lifting up the toaster. The roach wasn’t there anymore. “You have to kill them or they breed.”

       “Well, you said wherever you see one there are ten, so they’ve already got a head start.”

       Robin closed her eyes and shook her head. “I wish we could get the pest control guy out here.”

       “I’ll ask Nicholas if he knows something herbal that’ll get rid of ’em,” I said. “In the meantime, you want me to get rid of these two?”

       Everyone stopped and looked at me.

       “How?” asked Tab, looking puzzled.

       “What do you mean ‘how’?” I grabbed the roach she’d been chasing with my teekay, immobilizing it in the air. Funny how such a tiny thing could cause such a fuss.

       “So where’d the other one go?” I asked.

       “It went behind the toaster, but now it’s not there. It just disappeared.” Robin looked perplexed.

       “Yes, it’s the amazing teleporting bug,” I said. “Maybe I’ll start calling Bailey ‘Roach Girl.’” I looked around the counter for places the other roach could have hidden itself. I lifted up the heavy fruit basket, to no avail, but then I found the bug cowering behind the dish rack. He joined his brother, squirming in the air.

       “Eww,” said Bradleigh, backing into a corner.

       “What’re you ‘eww’ing about?” I asked. “They can’t get you now.”

       “I don’t like their undersides,” she said, shuddering. “Doesn’t it gross you out to touch them, even that way?”

       I shrugged. “Nope.” Leaving the roaches where they were, I went to the fridge. “Anybody hungry? I am.” I pulled out the OJ.

       “Maybe you could get rid of those first?” Bradleigh asked.

       “What, you don’t like ’em?” I enjoyed having the power to gross them out. I turned around and brought them closer, to have a better look. “They’re not that gross. Why are people so afraid of bugs?”

       “I’m not,” Tab said. “I was gonna catch it.”

       “That’s right, and you almost did, too,” Robin said. “Wash your hands, sweetie.”

       Tab went to the sink and used the soap as I examined my tiny captives. They were squirmy and had lots of weird little parts, and didn’t seem to get that motoring their legs wouldn’t get them anywhere, but that was interesting, not gross. I’d always liked looking at bugs; I’d done it a lot as a child—just catching a dragonfly or a butterfly or a beetle, holding it still until I was done looking at it, and letting it go. I’d even done that sort of thing with fish and birds, but the birds especially didn’t seem to like it.

       “What should I do with ’em, then?” I asked.

       “I say flush ’em,” said Robin.

       “Me too,” Bradleigh said.

       “I don’t give a shit, as long as you don’t drop them in the house or in my food,” added Cecily.

       As a joke I let the roaches go again, only to snatch them up when they tried to scurry out of sight. I laughed.

       “Don’t do that. They could drop their eggs or something,” said Bradleigh.

       “Just what I need, raising my baby in a roach-infested house,” Cecily said. “Roger’ll love that. Nobody mention it please. He’ll try to use it as yet another reason this place is unfit to raise a child in.”

       “I won’t mention it.” It was hard to believe Cecily was going to have a baby. She didn’t look any different, but sometimes she got sick for no reason, like Francis Fairchild had when she had been pregnant with Nina’s little brother.

       “Well, flush ’em or get rid of ’em, but don’t just put them on display,” Robin needled me.

       “Yeah, some of us are trying to eat here,” said Cecily.

       “You guys are such pussies,” I said, still not making any move to dispose of the roaches. I pretended to forget about them and finally poured some orange juice into a glass.

       “Tell me you wouldn’t be at least a little squeamish if you had to touch them,” Cecily challenged me.

       “I wouldn’t care. Bugs are not gross.”

       “Then touch them now, if you’re so macho.”

       “Don’t do it, Ivy, they spread germs.”

       “Whatever!” I went up to the roaches and poked them with my finger. “Wow, that was scary.”

       “It’d be different if you couldn’t stop it from crawling away or running all over your hand or whatever,” Cecily pointed out.

       “Yeah, well, that’ll never be a problem.” Actually that was a bit of a disturbing thought. All those little legs, taking them too fast to catch without the benefit of teekay or some good aim and luck. I actually shivered thinking about it.

       “Can I have them?” Tab said, looking embarrassed.

       “I’ll put up with a lot of things. But I will not put up with roaches as pets. No, Tab, you may not have them.” Robin took her feet out of her shoes.

       “Not for pets,” she said, “just, I want to chase them again.”

       Cecily gave her a look.

       “Well, not in the house,” said Robin. “And if you touch them again, wash your hands with soap before you touch anything else.”

       “C’mon, Tab, how ’bout I toss all three of you out the window?”

       I pushed the screen off the window and sent Tab out of it, setting her on the beach before letting the roaches free next to her. She gave a whoop of joy and took off after them.

       “I swear that girl is a wild animal,” Cecily said.

       “What can ya do? She likes to chase stuff,” I said.

       “I think it’s more like she enjoys hunting,” Bradleigh said, watching out the window. “Lookit how she crouches down and pounces, like a cat or something.”

       “I never saw a cat with green hair and horns,” I reminded her. “She used to be a lot wilder than that.”

       “Thank God it was before I got here,” said Cecily.

       “Yeah, I’m sure being at the end of those cute little claws is no picnic,” Robin said.

       I shrugged. “I tamed her, just like I tamed those roaches.”

       “At least she doesn’t have as many legs,” Bradleigh said. “Okay, I’m up for breakfast. Anyone want eggs? I’m cooking.”

       “Nice of you,” said Robin.

       “I’ll take some eggs,” I said.

       “None for me,” said Cecily, “but would you mind making enough for Roger to have some? He’ll be here any minute.”

       “Sure.” Bradleigh got out the gigantic cooking pan and started collecting supplies.

       “Hey Cecily,” I said.

       “Hmm?”

       “If Roger’s such a prick, why are you marrying him?”

       Cecily rolled her eyes. “Look, I know it bugs you that he has a problem with this place—”

       “If he has such a problem, why’s he keep coming over?”

       “Because he’s attracted to your magnetic personality, Ivy.”

       “Well if he’s so attached to the ‘real world,’ why doesn’t it bug him that he uses our ‘magic’ pool to get here?”

       “Would you lay off him? He never did anything to you.”

       “He called me an elf once.”

       “So what?”

       “So, that’s stupid and annoying.”

       “Get over it.”

       I glared at her, but she didn’t even seem uneasy. She was one of the few people who could pick fights with me and live, and I guessed she knew that.

       I heaved a sigh and sat down at the table with Cecily. “All I’m saying is, if he’s so closed-minded about us, and he’s giving you shit about where to raise the baby, then why do you want to spend your life with him?”

       Cecily softened into a contemplative expression she didn’t wear often. “I really want to raise the baby here,” she said, “it’s just so much healthier than the city, and I don’t want to baby her—”

       “Her? It’s a girl?”

       “Yeah. Nina told me.” She giggled. “Roger still keeps insisting it could be either one. He’s in denial about Nina’s powers, and about not getting the son he wants.”

       “God. He’s such a jerk. Why don’t you see it?”

       “Ivy, shut up for a second. I do see it. And I tell him off when he goes too far. When he said I shouldn’t even stay here during the pregnancy because the baby might be born with a tail, I gave him a tongue lashing he won’t forget. I reminded him this place is my home, and the people who live here are my friends and very much like my family. He understands that. He just doesn’t like it.”

       “But that’s such a huge thing. It’s weird that you could still love him when he has that attitude.”

       “I don’t think I could explain our love to you—and parts of it would gross you out, too.”

       “I know. I don’t particularly want to hear any details, but I do wish I understood why you still love him if he gives you such a hard time.”

       “Love’s not about that.”

       “If you had a daughter born with a tail would he still love her?”

       She frowned. “I guess so. I’m sure he would, but he’d probably want to get it removed or something.”

       “And when he tried to blame it on you for living here what would you say?”

       She shrugged. “I’d probably toss it back in his face and say she inherited it from his side of the family.”

       “What if it was something that couldn’t be removed?”

       “Like what?”

       “Like I was born with something weird that couldn’t be removed,” I said quietly, “and my parents still loved me.”

       “I imagine that if by some insane chance our daughter was born as something other people call a freak, he would just have to learn to be more tolerant. I think he would if it meant his daughter.”

       “Why can’t he start being more tolerant without it meaning his daughter?”

       Cecily pushed her hair back from her forehead with both hands. “Not everyone is as open-minded as you and me, Ivy. You better get used to it, too. You of all people should expect it by now!”

       “Doesn’t mean I have to like it, Cecily. I still think your boyfriend’s a jerk.”

       “Don’t call him my boyfriend. He’s my fiance. And I think you’re being a jerk.”

       “Maybe I am,” I admitted, “but this really matters to me. It’s one of my sore spots, okay?”

       “Okay, but just get off my back.”

       “Eggs’re done,” said Bradleigh, and Robin put plates in front of us.

       “Nice timing,” said Cecily. “I just heard the trapdoor. We can fill up Ivy’s mouth so she won’t be spouting horse shit anymore.”

       I didn’t look at her, but I tipped her chair back so she was almost on the floor. “I can only take so much horse shit myself, Cecily. Just ’cause you’re just as much of a bitch as me doesn’t mean I can’t kick your ass.”

       “Don’t prove that Roger’s right about you,” was all she said. I let her up as he walked into the kitchen.

       “Hey everybody,” he said. He certainly did have a charming smile, and looked nice even though he’d just come out of the pool and was still fairly damp. “Am I spoiling the girlie party?”

       “Yes,” I said. Cecily poked me. I floated out of the chair with my plate of eggs and perched on the fridge like I usually did. I could have said I was doing it to let him sit next to his fiancée, but I really did it to annoy him. He didn’t seem to have any reaction whatsoever, though, and just sat in the space I’d vacated. That was the thing about him; our freakishness bugged him, but he kept it to himself. And in instances that affected his future daughter, he kept it between himself and Cecily. I didn’t want to admit it, but he was actually a decent guy. I just didn’t like him thinking our house wasn’t good enough to be a home to their child.

       I kept silent during breakfast, listening to Roger and Cecily dominate the conversation with intricate details of their wedding. Blah blah, flowers, colors, dresses. I perked up again when they started bitching about being over-budget because of unforeseen delivery fees on some tables for the reception. I could deliver stuff.

       “Tell me where and when and I’ll do it for free,” I offered.

       “Oh!” said Cecily. “That would really help us out.”

       “Are you talking about flying around with a bunch of furniture?” Roger asked.

       I swallowed a mouthful of egg. “No, I was planning on hitching myself up to a horse-cart and dragging it through the street.”

       Cecily and Roger looked at each other.

       “She’s going to fly right out in the open? Out there?” He waved a hand, apparently indicating the outside world in general.

       “I always do,” I replied.

       “Maybe this isn’t a good idea,” Roger said, holding his hands up.

       “Why not?” Cecily asked.

       “Well, imagine it. How would we explain it to the places we picked it up and dropped it off at? Not to mention it would probably get reported as a UFO nine times over. Who wants that connected with our wedding? We have enough to worry about. Let’s just pay the extra money and settle it normally.”

       “Roger, the budget,” Cecily began.

       “Screw the budget,” Roger said. “Weddings cost money, and we don’t have a lot of time. Let’s worry about it later.”

       “Not that it’s my business,” I said, “but you’ve got a baby on the way. You can’t just say, ‘who cares if we run out of money?’ Just let me deliver your stupid tables and the problem will be solved.”

       “Ivy, you’re very helpful but no thanks.” He was getting pale. I wondered why.

       “If you’re so worried someone will see me, I’ll just do it at night or something.”

       “Neither of the places are open at night.”

       “I can get into places that aren’t open just fine.”

       “Okay, that’s it.” He put his hands down on the table and stood up. “If you want to help us, maybe you can do it in slightly less, um, disturbing ways. Maybe even help us arrange the tables once we get them there, if it’s just us. But in the outside world, I’m not connected to any of the crap that goes on here. I’m just connected to Cecily, okay?”

       “I just wanted to help. I wanted to save you the money. Don’t say I didn’t offer.”

       “If you want to help with that, you could always contribute the money.”

       I rewarded him with one of my famous intimidation stares. “Yeah? Well, my time is up for grabs. My money is not.” I got off the fridge, washed my dishes from across the room, and left without another word.


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